UNESCO launches global Futures of Education initiative at United Nations General Assembly

United Nations General Assembly - Futures of education

UNESCO launched the Futures of Education initiative to reimagine how knowledge and learning can shape the futures of humanity in a context of increasing complexity, uncertainty and precarity during a high-level event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 25 September.

The initiative, a flagship programme of UNESCO’s Education Sector, aims to reconsider how knowledge and learning can contribute to the common good of humanity, said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. Speaking of UNESCO’s leadership role in education, Ms Azoulay said “Our deeply humanist DNA cannot let us reduce education to a technical or technological issue, nor even to an economic one.”

The event was marked by the presence of President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal, President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria and the Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and Prime Minister of Andorra Xavier Espot.

“UNESCO has an important role to play in visioning and strategizing on what should be the role and purposes of education,” said the President of Ethiopia. “This new initiative brings that global intellectual leadership into a new era. As we face the profound challenges and exciting opportunities before us, we have a deep obligation to listen to children and youth and fully involve them in decisions about the future of our shared planet”

In a keynote address, Professor Arjun Appadurai stressed that “a vital task for educators in the next few decades will be to build the capacity of the young, the poor, and the marginal to imagine, to anticipate, and to aspire.”

Educators, representatives of civil society, technology, academia and business also shared their diverse perspectives on the policy challenges and opportunities for learning systems of the future during a panel discussion.

The establishment of an independent International Commission on the Futures of Education was announced during the launch event. Under the chair of Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, the International Commission will develop a flagship global report on the futures of education for release in 2021.

The UNESCO Director-General said the project would engage “a global conversation as well as a report on the future of education, drawing on the diverse and fruitful ways of learning practiced around the world, resolutely forward-looking, yet grounded in human rights at the service of the dignity of all.”

(A full video recording of the launch event is available here.)




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